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remained one of the better kept secrets of the Falklands war.
As far back as 1981, a small number of Type 22 frigates had
tested the top secret weapon system called “Laser Dazzle Sight,”(LDS).
After sea trials it was quickly fitted to Royal Naval ships
in time for the Falklands campaign. These included HMS Hermes, Brilliant, Broadsword, Invincible
and Argonaut. During
the British landings at San Carlos Waters, high speed, wave-skipping
Argentinean pilots, met a dazzling array of laser beams designed to
was one of the first uses of so called “Non Lethal Weapons.”
The term, spun from the descriptive yarn of Pentagon PR peddlers
- was soon to become “Less Than Lethal.”
Both descriptions remain interchangeable and, today, are often
“packaged” along with another military euphemism: “Soft Kill Technologies.” Blood, guts and especially death are no longer politically
Non Lethal armoury boasts a bewildering array of sophisticated new
and old tech weapons. At
the lower end of the scale these include Pepper sprays, CS gas, Mace,
Plastic bullets, glue guns, water cannons, anti-personnel foams and
the modern equivalent of Roman amphitheatre Gladiatorial nets - discharged
from a specially adapted shotgun.
At the higher end there are, as we have seen, an assortment
of dazzling or “blinding” lasers; acoustic, Radio-frequency (RF) and
Directed Energy Weapons (DEW).
CHEW, SLICK AND STICK
another category relies solely on chemicals, designed for anti-materiel
purposes. The modern
“jet-jockey” fighter pilot could just as easily be tasked with spraying
a formation of tanks with aerosol dispensing “combustion interferants.”
As with more generally known ordnance.
By exposing a diesel engine to a concentration of just 3% acetylene,
results in such severe pre-ignition difficulties that the engine self-destructs
in a matter of seconds. Without
mobility, even the most sophisticated muli-million dollar tank is
just a heap of scrap metal.
This system has already been designed and tested, formed from
a binary chemical warhead composed from calcium carbide and a water
the lines of battle, another low level fighter bomber discharges it
cargo of metal eating microbes on formations of second wave tanks
held in reserve. Like
alien bugs from some futuristic sci-fi movie, the microbes literally
chew metal and armour to pieces - in record time.
Known as chemical metal-embrittlement agents, these are composed
of substances that alter the crystal structure of metals, wrecking
chaos with every mouthful.
Dr. Strangelove’s who create these visions of how future war is to
be fought, have even more nasty surprises in store for the enemy tank
crew. If their engine combustion hasn’t been interfered with by “interferants,”
and they’ve managed to avoid becoming a tasty morsel for the metal
chewing microbes, they might be deluged in strange adhesives - known
as “Roach Motel” polymers - which glue them to the spot. Failing
this they could easily be sprayed with “Teflon confetti,” an anti-traction
lubricant that reduces friction - making surfaces far too slippery
to drive on. But even
this is not all. Having
escaped the previous non lethal weapon attacks, they come unstuck
at the last hurdle as an anti-tank round whistles overhead and explodes,
dowsing them with a jellied “super-acid” which promptly destroys all
their optics, rendering the crew blind.
addition, the enemy’s “soft-skinned” trucks, carrying men and supplies
to the battle front will come in for a gentle battering.
Special chemical compounds would be sprayed above them, or
a surface area coated ahead of their convoy.
As soon as the tyres of the trucks hit the chemical a reaction
occurs, rendering them brittle and useless.
Aircraft too, can be attacked with this compound, embrittling
all rubber seals and tyres.
announcement of these other non-lethal weapons were met with hoots
of derision by some of the media, resulting in a series of feature
articles with titles like “Bang You’re Alive,” “Surrender or We’ll
Slime You” and “What Price Sticky Foam.”
Yet underlying the surface jesting, some deadly serious debates
were being conducted. The
International Committee of the Red Cross viewed some of these developments
with great concern. Charged
with implementing the Geneva Conventions on warfare, the ICRC took
a long, hard look at the prospect of these future weapons.
They didn’t entirely like what they saw.
the other side of the Atlantic, however, the influential Council on
Foreign Relations (CFR) established their own non-lethal “Task Force.”
Their report, published in 1995, was far more upbeat, saying
“… non-lethal technologies could be particularly effective in a number
of conflicts…” The premier
US player in foreign relations - and possessing enormous domestic
political clout - the CFR report constituted a green light to big-spending
US military planners and weapon manufacturers.
the “sticky foam” and “Roach Motel polymers” caught the imagination
of the popular press, the really “big bucks” non lethal R&D projects
remained eclipsed behind a heavy curtain of secrecy.
Major US government weapon laboratories including Los Alamos,
Sandia, Edgewood, Harry Diamond and Picatinny went in to high gear
developing less lethal weapons for the new electromagnetic battlefield.
and technicians employed in these facilities daily wrestle with the
darkest visions of hell that a free spending nation can afford. This, in reality, is the “Star Wars” programme of the next
millennium. Known as
“disabling technologies” these include infrasound weapons. Massive banks of high wattage speakers, and higher powered
amplifiers beat out a tattoo of low frequency sound waves that penetrate
through walls and armoured vehicles like a crossbow-bolt passes through
an apple. The enemy,
whether they be regular soldiers or terrorists wilt under the unseen
bombardment. First they
suffer disorientation, then begin vomiting and defecating until they
are rendered combat “ineffective.”
Ultrasound beam devices cause similar reactions but can, if
beamed at sufficient densities, result in permanent hearing damage
and can lead to death. Both
can be arrayed in underwater environments, for example against divers,
where their output is automatically amplified.
Powered Microwaves (HPM) munitions are also a fundamental part of
the non lethal concept. These
can effectively disable or destroy aircraft, missiles, armoured vehicles
and other equipment by targeting the receiving diodes in radars and
communication devices, as well a wrecking havoc with computer “bits.”
The effect is to render an enemy blind, and incommunicado.
Because Microwaves are thermal in character they can also burn
out circuits and destroy metallic objects.
of the principal backbones of the emerging Directed Energy Weapon
Systems (DEWS), Microwaves are also known to have serious debilitating
effects on humans. A
rapid increase in body temperature and especially body organs as a
result of microwave bombardment can be fatal.
At lower levels known effects include modifications in behaviour
patterns and can lead to temporary stupefaction.
For this reason HPM also come under the banner of “confusion
weapons.” Unlike conventional
munitions which require a clip or belt of ammunition, HPM’s - providing
they have continued access to a ready power source - can continue
the most contentious emotions in the on-going non-lethal debate focus
on the use of these devices in domestic law enforcement situations. Inside the US Defence Department an Orwellian sounding programme
known as “Operations Other Than War,” raise the hackles of those who
view government integrity with a jaundiced eye.
In a nutshell, Operations Other Than War, will be directed
to riot control, crowd control and other potentially ubiquitous uses.
The euphemism for weapons which can, and are, being “rotated”
to these domestic law enforcement roles are known simply as “dual
scenario goes something like this.
A lone policeman walking his beat is confronted with a man
armed with a knife. Quick
as a flash he un-slings his converted shotgun, pulls the trigger and
a weighted net leaps at the assailant sending him crashing to the
floor in tangles. The
policeman can now safely approach.
If the attacker still show signs of aggression, he can be sprayed
in the face with one of the many available debilitating sprays.
His breathing severely inhibited the attacker is rendered passive,
permitting the law officer to slip a pair of handcuffs on, and drag
him coughing and retching to the precinct station.
not dissimilar picture focuses on the use of electronic batons. Once prodded, the riotous individual is thrown to the ground,
crackling with 40,000 plus volts of elec-trickery meandering at the
speed of light through his body.
Tasers, are another possibility.
These are guns that fire prods which, on contact, zap an assailant
with a crippling jolt of electric energy.
Foam guns and Glue guns - both of which immobilise the target
by cementing him in place - round off future cops’ belt-hitched personal
defence ensemble. Optional
accessories might include the “Soft Rag,” a non-lethal rubber bullet
fired from an M16 Assault rifle.
Shaped like a miniature, flying Swiss roll - sans chocolate
- the “Rag” will knock a target head over heels.
of these devices appear patently ineffective in real-life, fast-paced
“street” situations, whilst others border on the ludicrous.
Some, of course, like CS gasses and rubber bullets have proven
effective - and often fatal.
The real fears focus on the street use of highly sophisticated
electromagnetic as well as germ weapons.
High Powered Microwaves, says Dr. Steve Aftergood, of the Federation
of American Scientists, are “almost uniquely intrusive.”
He adds that they “do not simply attack a person’s body.
Rather they reach all the way into a person’s mind…”
These are the much touted “confusion weapons.”
Highly classified, little is known about them.
chemical and biological spectrum however, is causing equal concern
in some quarters. The
International Committee of the Red Cross are keeping a watching brief
on developments in “biotechnology and genetic engineering.”
This follows “rumours and allegations” of covert developments
in the realm of “gene specific” biological and toxin weapons for “political
purposes.” Genone mapping together with wider DNA fingerprinting may
have lead to the identification of racial differences.
These are then targeted by “smart” biological and viral weapons.
At the low end of the scale this could, theoretically, lead
to a planned, but deniable irruption of debilitating influenza in
a target race, for example Black protesters marching on Washington
the Pentagon and Law Enforcement hype, non lethal weapons can truly
be deadly. Yet it is
in the political sphere that growing, long term public distaste may
result in the ultimate death of non lethal weaponry?
Non lethal sedatives - an answer to crowd control
US military - who are
at the forefront of non-lethal weapons developments - have also investigated
the covert use of “long lasting sedatives” which could be secreted
in food supplies. In the event that spiking food staples proves difficult, sedatives
could just as well be dispersed via more customary methods - low flying
Cruise missiles or innocent looking aircraft. Such scenarios have become increasingly attractive to military
planners following the disastrous Somalia “peace keeping” operation.
In one US Army publication a future scenario was painted which
co-ordinated this use of “drug-assisted subliminal conditioning” with
the more usual “psychological operations.”
HERF Gun - Killing computers, downing aircraft
is known that both the US and Britain’s own Ministry of Defence have
developed a High Energy Radio Frequency gun.
This can so severely disrupt computers that a gang of criminals
have been extracting tens of millions of dollars from international
banks under threat of attacking their global computer systems.
It is also rumoured that the HERF gun can attack aircraft electronics
resulting in unexplained crashes.
This has led to a series of allegations by conspiracists surrounding
the downing of a number of aircraft which are said to have “political”
Techo-sanctions - The threat to go non-lethal
Former US Army Chief of Staff, General Edward “Shy” Meyer is an ardent fan of non-lethality. Meyer believes these weapons provide the muscle to threaten use against some enemies - a sort of “techo sanction” - which might avoid military confrontation altogether. Talking of Operation Desert Storm, Meyer says “ if you had the ability to make all the motor-driven vehicles unable to move without killing any Iraqi’s, that would be a relatively peaceful and nonlethal solution to a very difficult international problem.” Others are less sure. An air armada would have still been necessary to suppress Saddam Hussein’s mammoth anti-aircraft arsenal - in order to deliver the non lethal dose of combustion inhibitors.
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